Extraordinary outsiders: the makers who don’t know they’re artists
Becky Barnicoat writes for the Guardian
They may not communicate in conventional ways, but the art in a provocative new exhibition made by people with neurological impairments gives a rare glimpse into their secret worlds.
Sharif is wearing his Al Murray mask today (some days it’s Barack Obama, other days the Queen). He is busy cutting out an intricate floorplan of a hotel to stick into Continent City, a new map he’s making in his sketchbook.
In one corner of the room, Sam sits on his stool by the window, earmuffs on, just thinking. At some point he will get up, reach for the yellow paint and blast it into the centre of a huge canvas, watching as it streams in yolky rivulets to the ground. Then he’ll sit back down to think some more.
Sam’s brother George, who is also autistic, is on the other side of the room leaping up and down to the Clash. Every so often he’ll stop to make a great dash across his canvas with a fistful of paint. Lastly, Amy sits in the middle of the studio, calmly painting a black canvas salmon pink with the palm of her hand.
The four are members of the Parachute Club, a gathering of creative people with complex needs at Project Art Works (PAW) in Hastings. Everyone here is making art, but the team at PAW don’t call them artists. Instead they are “makers”, a fairer reflection of their approach to creating something that might turn out to be beautiful … or might not. Either way, the outcome usually matters little to the maker.
But even if they aren’t artists, 14 PAW participants are about to follow in the footsteps of Bridget Riley with a major show at the De La Warr Pavilion. The exhibition, In the Realm of Others, is a huge – and rare – platform for artwork made by people with neurological impairments.
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